Antacids And Acid Reducers: Otc Relief For Heartburn And Acid Reflux
Last Updated August 2022 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Leisa Bailey, MD
Over-the-counter medicines are drugs you can buy without a doctors prescription. There are 3 types of OTC medicines that treat heartburn and acid reflux.
- Antacids reduce the effects of acid in your stomach. They do this by neutralizing the acid. Antacids can provide fast, short-term relief. There are many different brands of antacids. They come in the forms of chewable tablets, dissolving tablets, and liquid.
- H2 blockers reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. While they dont relieve symptoms as quick as antacids, they do last longer. H2 blockers usually start to work within an hour. An OTC example is famotidine .
- Proton pump inhibitors reduce your bodys production of acid. They work well for heartburn that isnt resolved by antacids or H2 blockers. It may take a little longer for a PPI to help your symptoms, but relief will last longer. Most forms start working in a few days. PPIs are most helpful for people who have chronic heartburn . Omeprazole and lansoprazole are examples of OTC PPIs.
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Eat Smaller Meals Slower
Be mindful of how much and how fast youre eating at mealtime. Too much food in your stomach can put pressure on the valve that keeps stomach acid from coming up your esophagus, thus making heartburn more likely, says , the chief medical officer and co-founder of Redirect Health. Also, eating too fast can trigger heartburn, so Dr. Johnston says chewing slowly or taking smaller bites can help slow down the process.
What Other Information Should I Know
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor may order certain laboratory tests before and during your treatment.
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking omeprazole.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. If you are taking prescription omeprazole, ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
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What Does Heartburn Feel Like
Heartburn feels like an uncomfortable or burning pain in the middle of your chest. You may also experience:
- a burning sensation in your throat
- pressure or pain behind your breastbone
- difficulty swallowing
- worsening pain after lying down or bending over
- an acidic, sour, or bitter taste in your mouth
- coughing or hoarseness
Watch What You Eat Drink And Do
Making some changes to your lifestyle can go a long way toward easing the pain of heartburn.
Say goodbye to cigarettes. Smoking causes your body to make less saliva, a liquid that helps stamp out stomach acid. That can lead to burning in your esophagus. Tobacco may also cause your stomach to make more acid and relax the muscles at the lower end of your esophagus that can shut down the opening between the stomach and the esophagus. Chewing gum and sucking on lozenges can help you make more saliva.
Avoid trigger foods. For many people, these are spicy and high-fat foods, chocolate, peppermint and other mints, coffee, citrus fruits or juices, tomato products, carbonated drinks, and onions.
Donât lie down after you eat. If you need an afternoon siesta, snooze upright in a chair. Eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed, and donât make the last meal of the day your biggest one.
Raise the head of your bed. If the top of your bed is higher than the bottom, itâs harder for the acid to travel up. You can do this with a block of wood under the bed or a foam wedge under the mattress.
Be careful what medications you use. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other medications, such as some sedatives and blood pressure drugs, can trigger heartburn. Ask your doctor if any of your medications might be causing your symptoms. There may be something else you can take.
Wear loose clothing. Tight clothing, including belts, can cause stomach contents to push upward.
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How To Stop Heartburn Without Medicine
If you experience mild heartburn frequently, and your doctor has ruled out serious causes, the occasional use of antacids and acid reducers can help soothe symptoms. There are also lifestyle changes you can try to reduce your reliance on medication, however, including not sleeping or lying down immediately after eating, losing weight, limiting your intake of alcohol and fatty foods, quitting smoking and reducing your consumption of fizzy drinks.
Another option is to try a ginger root supplement. Ginger may help calm indigestion and stomach irritation. It also might help prevent stomach acid from reaching your throat as readily by reducing the intensity and frequency of your stomach’s contractions.
Ppis Can Change The Way Other Drugs Work
PPIs interact with some common prescription drugs. For example, some PPIs can reduce the blood-thinning effect of the drug Plavix , according to the US Food and Drug Administration. This can increase the risk of heart attack and even death. If you take Plavix, talk to your doctor about whether you should take a PPI.
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What Should I Know About Storage And Disposal Of This Medication
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from light, excess heat, and moisture .
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location â one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach.
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA’s Safe Disposal of Medicines website for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
Treating Heartburn And Gerd
Heartburn is a feeling of burning pain in your lower chest, behind the breastbone. It comes from acid backing up from your stomach to your throat. You may have seen ads for heartburn drugs, such as Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid. These drugs are called PPIs . They keep the stomach from making too much acid. They have been shown to heal irritation of the tube between the throat and the stomach .
In most cases, you dont need a PPI for heartburn. You can get relief from a less powerful drug. And when you do need a PPI, you should take the lowest dose for as short a time as possible. Heres why:
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Avoid Foods That Cause Heartburn
While heartburn triggers vary from person to person, there are several foods and drinks that are known causes of heartburn, including:
- spicy foods: hot chili peppers
- acidic foods: citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate
- acidic drinks, such as caffeine, alcohol, coffee, wine and carbonated beverages.
Pay attention to the foods and beverages that trigger heartburn for you and eliminate them from your diet.
Let Your Stomach Loose
Tight waistbands or belts that dig into your stomach place unnecessary pressure on your abdomen.10 Swallowing an antacid and undoing the button of your pants or taking your belt down a notch or two after eating will provide instant relief. Maintaining a healthy weight is, however, a better long-term solution.
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How To Relieve Heartburn
Heartburn can be really uncomfortable, but there are several treatments that can help decrease your symptoms.
If you regularly experience acid reflux, start by talking to your doctor or a K doctor, who can help diagnose you and recommend medications and home remedies to soothe your discomfort.
If you are a smoker, you should stop.
Here are some of the most common heartburn treatments people try to improve their symptoms.
Be Careful What You Drink
Alcohol, coffee, and whole milk can all lead to heartburn, as can peppermint tea. Sodas and carbonated drinks may relax the LES and make your stomach acid more acidic, increasing your risk of heartburn. Highly acidic citrus juices such as orange and grapefruit can also cause acid reflux and heartburn in some people.13
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What Do I Do If I Think I Have Gerd
With GERD when reflux and heartburn happen more than once in a while the tissue lining your esophagus is getting battered regularly with stomach acid. Eventually the tissue becomes damaged. If you have this chronic acid reflux and heartburn you can see its affecting your daily eating and sleeping habits.
When GERD makes your daily life uncomfortable in this way, call your healthcare provider. Although GERD isnt life-threatening in itself, its chronic inflammation of the esophagus can lead to something more serious. You may need stronger prescription medications or even surgery to ease your symptoms.
When Should I Call My Doctor About My Heartburn
Even though heartburn is common, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. Severe, chronic heartburn has been linked to inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough, GERD, and Barretts esophagus, which may lead to esophageal cancer.
You should contact your doctor if:
- Your heartburn wont go away.
- Your heartburn symptoms become more severe or frequent.
- Its hard or hurts to swallow.
- Your heartburn causes you to vomit.
- You have had substantial, unexpected weight loss.
- You take over-the-counter antacids for more than two weeks and you still have heartburn symptoms.
- You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription medicines.
- You have serious hoarseness or wheezing.
- Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.
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How Can I Prevent Heartburn
There are many steps you can take to help prevent heartburn:
- Avoid foods or drinks that may trigger your symptoms, such as acidic foods, high fat foods, spicy foods, chocolate, alcohol, mint, and carbonated drinks.
- Wait at least 3 hours after eating to lie down.
- Place blocks or books under your bed to elevate the head of your bed. This can help prevent stomach acid from traveling back up your esophagus.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes, which can put pressure on your stomach and lower esophageal sphincter.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than two or three large ones to help ease the impact on your digestive system.
- Chew sugarless gum after eating. A found chewing gum can increase saliva production, helping to neutralize stomach acid and push acid back into the stomach.
- If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways to quit.
- Maintain a moderate weight.
How Can You Prevent Heartburn
To prevent heartburn or stop it from starting, there are several methods you can try.
- Avoid eating right before bedtime. A bedtime snack may be tempting. But the ACG suggests that if you leave yourself at least 2 to 3 hours to digest before lying down, youll lower your risk of heartburn.
- Limit alcohol consumption. If you drink, reducing the amount you drink or eliminating alcoholic drinks from your routine can lower your heartburn risk.
- Watch out for trigger foods. Did you know that you can help stop acid reflux and heartburn by changing your diet? Foods to avoid include:
- tomatoes, including products like tomato sauce
- acidic foods, like oranges, lemons, and limes
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How Do Acid Blockers Work To Treat Heartburn
Products like Pepcid AC® are called histamine H2 blockers, or acid blockers. Acid blockers reduce the production of stomach acid. They relieve heartburn, acid indigestion and sour stomach. Always follow the directions on the packaging or talk to your healthcare provider about how to take this medication. Acid blockers you can buy without a prescription include:
Take your acid blocker medicine regularly for as long as directed by your healthcare provider, even if you do not have any pain or if your symptoms get better.
Stronger acid blockers are prescription medications. These can be used to block stomach acid, treat stomach and duodenal ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and GERD. They work by reducing the production of stomach acid. Your healthcare provider will give you a specific prescription for this type of acid blocker.
The United States Food and Drug Administration recently reported elevated levels of a possible carcinogen, NDMA, in the drugs ranitidine and nizatidine . You should speak to your healthcare provider if you are taking one these medications.
Causes Of Heartburn And Acid Reflux
Lots of people get heartburn from time to time. There’s often no obvious reason why.
Sometimes it’s caused or made worse by:
- certain food and drink such as coffee, tomatoes, alcohol, chocolate and fatty or spicy foods
- being overweight
- an increase in some types of hormones, such as progesterone and oestrogen
- some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers
- a hiatus hernia when part of your stomach moves up into your chest
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When To See A Doctor For Heartburn
Sometimes heartburn can be a side effect of a bigger problem, and it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to get in front of any potential health issues. One thing to be on the lookout for, says Dr. Johnston, is if you take an over-the-counter medication for your heartburn and symptoms still persist or dont get better. If your heartburn becomes more common, such as experiencing it several times a week, or becoming more severe, it is a good indicator to speak with a professional, she adds.
Also, taking any home, natural, or over-the-counter remedy or medication could mask certain underlying conditions, such as an ulcer, so its important to communicate what medications and remedies youre using at home with your healthcare provider.
In general, if you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, Dr. Mehdizadeh says you should contact your doctor right away.
- Difficulty swallowing
Path To Improved Health
To find out which medicine is right for you, talk to your family doctor. They can tell you about the benefits and risks. Antacids and acid reducers rarely cause side effects. If they do, the side effects usually are minor and go away on their own. These may include headaches, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea.
Talk to your doctor before taking antacids if you have kidney disease. You should avoid any antacid that contains calcium carbonate or aluminum hydroxide and magnesium carbonate unless your doctor recommends it.
Talk to your doctor before taking a proton pump inhibitor if:
- You are elderly or have immune system problems. PPIs can increase your risk for pneumonia.
- You are a postmenopausal woman. PPIs reduce calcium absorption and increase your risk for osteoporosis.
- You have been treated for a Clostridium difficile infection in the past. PPIs may increase the risk that your infection returns.
If you are over the age of 55 and require long-term PPI treatment, your doctor may refer you for an EGD . This procedure examines the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine. If you have significant reflux, your doctor also may test you for a bacteria called H. pylori prior to trying you on PPIs.
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What About Coffee For Heartburn
Get ready for some bad news: For many people, a morning cup of coffee is a strong heartburn trigger. While theres no hard medical research that coffee causes heartburn, theres enough anecdotal evidence that its best to steer clear if you cant identify the source of your discomfort. Or cut it out for a day or two to see how your body reacts. If eliminating coffee eases your symptoms, caffeine may be a trigger. Try decaf instead or one of these caffeine alternatives.
Avoid Tight Fitting Clothes
Things cinched tightly about your waist or middle can worsen heartburn. If you have super tight jeans on, when you sit down, the waistband is going to sink into your abdomen region. Same goes for tight belts-and even shirts can be a problem for some. This is because all of the above puts extra pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, which make it more likely stomach contents, will push through and youll experience reflux.
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